On a sociological challenge to the veridicality of religious experience

Religious Studies 34 (3):235-251 (1998)
Abstract
This paper replies to Evan Fales' sociological explanation of mystical experience in two articles in "Religious Studies" vol. 32 (143-63 and 297-313). In these papers Fales applies the ideas of I. M. Lewis on spirit possession to show how mystical experiences can be accounted for as vehicles for the acquisition of political power and social control. The rebuttal of Fales contains three main elements: (a) the presentation of specific examples of theistic mystical experience from Christianity and Judaism which provide counter-examples to Fales' theory; (b) the presentation of some general objections to its plausibility; and (c) an argument for the conclusion that the burden of proof lies with naturalistic, reductionist explanations of religious experiences rather than with theistic interpretations of those experiences
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